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Coat

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1640-1650 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Leather, with whalebone stiffening in the collar and silver-gilt braids

  • Museum number:

    T.34-1948

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
The buff coat was a feature of military dress during the 17th century, usually worn under a breastplate. Originally these garments were made of European buffalo (or wild ox) hide, which is where the term 'buff' comes from. By the mid-17th century, they were most frequently made of oil-tanned cow leather. The thick leather made the coat good protection, not only against musket balls and sword cuts, but also from the friction of the armoured plate worn over it.

Materials & Making
The thickest parts of the hide (over six millimeters) are at the bottom of the coat, to protect the legs while riding. Special sewing techniques join the thick, tough leather; the holes through which the thread passed were first punched with an awl. The absence of a waist seam means that four hides were used to make this coat, adding to its expense.

Ownership & Use
Portraits illustrate that buff coats were frequently adorned with lace cuffs and collars and wide, brightly coloured silk sashes. The style of this buff coat with an inner sleeve of soft doeskin and the extensive embellishment with two types of silver-gilt braid indicates that it probably belonged to a high-ranking officer.

Cost
Buff coats were expensive items, as contemporary letters and diaries reveal. Writing to his father-in-law in 1640, John Tubervill observed: 'For your buff-coat I have looked after, and the price they are exceedingly dear, not a good one to be gotten under œ10, a very poor one for five or six pounds.'

Physical description

Buff leather coat with silver-gilt braid trimming

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1640-1650 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Leather, with whalebone stiffening in the collar and silver-gilt braids

Dimensions

Height: 103 cm, Width: 68 cm skirt, Width: 45 cm shoulders, Width: 61 cm elbow to elbow, Depth: 63.5 cm skirt, Weight: 10 kg

Object history note

Made in England

Descriptive line

M, 1640-50, English; Buff leather

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Buff (leather) coats were made of thick cow hide and were commonly worn during the Civil War and Commonwealth period. They were originally hard-wearing military dress, but became a fashionable feature of men's portraits. Metal braid frequently embellished the more expensive versions. [27/03/2003]

Materials

Leather; Whalebone; Silver

Techniques

Hand sewing; Gilding; Braiding

Categories

Clothing; Fashion; Day wear; Europeana Fashion Project; War; Men's clothes

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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